ITIL and CX (Part 1 of 2)

Chances are you haven’t heard of ITIL before. In the work I do with IT Helpdesks though it’s very well-known and has been widely adopted by a range of organisations seeking to improve their IT service support and delivery.

Here’s the thing I’ve found after studying it: I think it’s very related to the concepts of Customer Experience.

In the first of a two part series, I’ll take you through what ITIL is, its guiding principles, and how I think those principles relate to CX.


In the late 1980’s, the British government recognised that they were increasingly dependent upon IT to satisfy their needs. At the time, however, they felt that the level of IT service quality provided to them was simply not sufficient.

So they developed GITIM (Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management) which later became ITIL (Information Technology Information Library). These principles provided a comprehensive, consistent and coherent set of best practices for IT Service Management processes, promoting a quality approach to achieving business effectiveness and efficiency in the use of information systems.

At the heart of ITIL is the concept of service. IT Service Management professionals who adopt ITIL are dedicated to making the provision of service highly effective and efficient.

Guiding Principles

There are nine guiding principles of ITIL. The first four (and how I think they relate to CX) are:

Focus on value – Everything the service provider does needs to map, directly or indirectly, to value for the customer and/or the organisation. It is the customer who determines what is of value to them, not the service provider. Continual improvement must be focused around making improvements that will result in greater value being delivered to the customer.

This first principle is perfectly aligned with the first principle of Lean. Offering value and continually improving though are intuitively both at the heart of customer experience management (and this was written about earlier this year by Annette Franz). Forrester described the first level of their Customer Experience Pyramid as “Meets Needs” – adding value by helping customers achieve their goals. Continual improvement is required because (a) your competitors are constantly innovating and (b) because customer expectations are always rising.

Design for experience – It is critical to retain the focus not only on customer/business value, but also on the experience that both customers and users have when they interact with the service or service provider. This is frequently called the “customer experience” and it must be actively managed.

To me, this principle makes two points: (1) Customer experience is based on the sum of interactions customers have with you and (2) Customer experience must be actively managed. The upshot is: companies must offer a consistent experience across all interaction channels and they must actively design experiences for customers if they want to differentiate on service.

Start where you are – Resist the temptation to start from scratch and build something new without considering what is already available to be leveraged. Based on the vision for the future and how that will deliver value to the customer, there is likely to be a great deal in the current services, processes, programmes, projects, people etc. that can be used to create that future.

This is great advice for companies taking their first tentative steps to improve their CX. Leverage what is already available to you to help you begin. Analyse your vision, mission and values to understand why your company exists and what your brand proposition is. In terms of customer insight, before beginning a Voice of the Customer program, speak to your frontline staff, examine the contents of your CRM, and/or check Google Analytics to understand how customers are interacting with your website and where potential pain points might be. Once you begin digging, you’d be surprised how much customer insight you already have. (Read my 6 Sources of Customer Understanding for further inspiration!)

Work holistically – No service or component stands alone. The results delivered to the organisation or customer will suffer unless the service provider works on the whole, not just on the parts. Results are delivered to the customer through the effective and efficient management of a complex integration of hardware, software, data, processes, architectures, metrics, tools, people, and partners, all coordinated to provide a defined value.

One of the biggest threats to a good customer experience is organisational silos; disparate departments within an organisation that are accountable only for specific parts of a customer’s journey. One of the keys to becoming elite in the CX world is break down the silos so that every employee takes responsibility for the experience as a whole. The key to doing this is through reward and recognition programs that remunerate employees based on achievement of holistic customer experience goals not just customer satisfaction at specific parts of their journey.

Up next: the final five principles.



  • ITIL Practitioner Guidance-
  • ITIL The Key To Managing IT Services – Office of Government Commerce


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